Here’s The Face of The 20-Week Abortion Ban Debate

By Published on September 23, 2015

At 29 years old, Danielle Pickering was faced with an impossible decision: Save her own life, or that of her unborn son.

“We chose not to let them induce me to save my life, at the risk of his life,” Danielle told The Daily Signal, referencing her experience with a life-threatening condition that threatened her own life, and that of her unborn child.

Today, Micah is three years old with big brown eyes and perfectly shaped curls.

He faces minor chronic lung disease, asthma, and has a slight speech delay. Other than that, his parents call him “absolutely normal” — with one exception. “He loves to vacuum, help me clean, [and] he loves to help me take the clothes out of the dryer,” laughed Danielle.

Micah Pickering watches his favorite movie, "Ratatouille," during a press conference in Washington, D.C. (Photo: Kelsey Harkness/Daily Signal)

The pro-life community is now making Micah the face of the national debate surrounding late-term abortions. This week, the Pickering family — Danielle and her husband Clayton — lobbied Senators to vote to advance a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks. The vote came on the same day the Pope arrived in Washington, D.C., and included exceptions for incest, rape and the life of the mother.

Supporters of the bill hoped her story would inspire people to realize the possibilities of saying no to abortion. But right after a press conference with the Pickerings and supportive lawmakers and pro-life leaders, Democrats used a filibuster to block the vote from occurring. Under the legislation, Danielle could have still chosen to abort her child.

The Pickering family lives in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo: Kelsey Harkness/Daily Signal)

Difficult Pregnancy

Danielle’s water broke at 21 weeks, just over half of a typical 40-week pregnancy. Sensing something wrong, she went to the doctor. But being so early in the pregnancy, doctors missed what had happened and sent her home.

For the next week, Danielle went about her regular day-to-day life. “I went to yard sales, cooked dinners, all with my water broken,” she said.

A week later, she started having contractions and was brought to the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, where doctors told her she would stay for the rest of her pregnancy — whether that was three hours or three months.

At the hospital, doctors diagnosed her with amnionitis, a bacterial infection that resulted from her water being broken for so long without any antibiotics. Doctors wanted to induce the pregnancy so they could treat her life-threatening infection, but Danielle and her husband refused.

“The longer they didn’t treat this infection, the more she was in danger,” Clayton said. “But every minute that we didn’t was better for him.”

“It was me or him at that point, and we chose him as long as we could,” Danielle said.

When Micah was born, his parents say he "grabbed our fingers and just gripped." (Photo: Kelsey Harkness/Daily Signal)

A Chance At Survival

A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that 23 percent of infants born at 22 weeks survived with medical treatment. One in three of those survivors faced serious impairments, such as blindness, deafness or cerebral palsy.

Doctors warned the Pickerings that should they fight to keep their son alive, he would likely face one of these problems. “They said if he would live, he would have serious medical impairments,” Clayton said.

On July 25, 2012, at 22 weeks and four days, Danielle naturally went into labor and gave birth to their first son, who they named Micah. He weighed one pound and six ounces.

Upon birth, he cried twice — something doctors said would be impossible, given that his lungs had only two to three weeks to develop. When they whisked Micah away, Danielle thought she’d never see him again — alive, at least.

Danielle and her husband Clayton hold Micah's hands after giving birth. (Photo: Pickering/Facebook)

Beating the Odds

The Pickerings, who are Baptist, credit their Christian faith for Micah’s survival, but also say it couldn’t be done without their doctors.

The total cost of keeping Micah alive was more than $1 million. “His medical bill was over 100 pages,” Danielle said. “We had insurance and that covered 100 percent, thankfully.”

Because the medical community is in flux over when babies can survive outside the womb, few hospitals offer treatment for babies at such an early stage in development. The Pickerings say if they had gone to Jefferson County Hospital, just over an hour away from the University of Iowa Children’s Hospital, Micah wouldn’t have survived. “A lot of hospitals, even if they wanted to, couldn’t save Micah,” Clayton said.

Having successfully given birth to Micah, Danielle and Clayton believe they have a duty to do what they can to save other lives that might be aborted. “They say it’s not a baby, but I think when you look at Micah’s picture when he was 22 weeks … maybe that will help people see him in a different life they didn’t before,” Danielle said.

“He’s as full of life today as he was at 22 weeks,” Clayton added.


Copyright 2015 The Daily Signal

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  • kaththee

    Any woman in that situation has to make her own decisions, and doctors should always put the mother’s life first. Things got dicey late in my 2nd pregnancy and I was a high risk for stroke (no talk of abortion just inducing a very healthy viable baby girl close to term) OB reassured me, “I have never lost a mother. It is sad but babies die, not mothers though.” His eyes clouded in horror just talking about it. Mrs. Pinkering had every right to make her choice to wait that week, but another mother has the right to make the choice of putting her life first, especially so early in pregnancy. As a moral matter intent matters. If Mrs. Pinkering had older children to leave behind she might not have been willing to wait that week for treatment. This is the worse case to highlight for abortion law reform. This case is the real but rare”mother’s life was endangered” case rather than most late term abortions which are done for far less pressing concerns on healthy viable fetuses way past 22 weeks and right up until full term. It is sick.

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